Afghan Civilian Casualties at Record High in 2015

Afghan Civilian Casualties at Record High in 2015Afghan Civilian Casualties at Record High in 2015

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan touched a record high in the first half of 2015, according to UN figures released Wednesday, revealing a fragile security situation six months after the NATO combat mission ended.

Total casualties, defined as the number of civilians killed or wounded, increased 1% between January and June compared to the same period of last year, with 1,592 civilians killed and 3,329 injured, the UN Mission for Afghanistan said in a report, France24 reported.

The figures marked a 6% fall in civilian deaths but a 4% increase in injuries compared to the first half of 2014. Female casualties soared 23% and child casualties increased by 13%, as civilians are increasingly caught in the crossfire.

Ground combat is causing more deaths and injuries than improvised explosive devices in a worrying sign of spreading conflict, the report said, adding that the conflict was taking a particularly heavy toll on women and children.

“The cold statistics of civilian casualties do not adequately capture the horror of violence in Afghanistan, the torn bodies of children, mothers and daughters, sons and fathers,” said UNAMA chief Nicholas Haysom.

“The statistics in this report do not reveal the grieving families and the loss of shocked communities of ordinary Afghans. These are the real consequences of the conflict in Afghanistan.”

The figures highlight growing insecurity as the Taliban insurgency spreads north from its traditional southern and eastern strongholds, with Afghan forces facing their first summer fighting season without full NATO support.

 Taliban at the Forefront

The Taliban remained responsible for around 70% of civilian deaths and injuries in the first six months of 2015, the UN said, largely through their continued use of suicide attacks and improvised explosive devices.

Targeted killings were the leading cause of civilian deaths, the UN said, as anti-government elements threatened members of the judiciary, religious leaders and others perceived to be supporting the government.

These included, for example, a mullah whose residence was bombed in retaliation for having performed a funeral ceremony for a policeman.

Around 12,000 NATO troops remain to train Afghan forces and only a small US contingent is still engaged in combat, as part of a separate counter-terrorism mission.

The overall number of casualties caused by different types of bombs decreased for the first time since 2012.

However, explosive ordnance remained the second leading cause of casualties, the UN said, adding that the increase used of pressure-plate devices was of particular concern.

The growing ability of Afghan forces to detect and defuse bombs may also have helped limit the number of casualties, the UN said, with over 5,000 devices cleared over the period.

“This destruction and damage to Afghan lives must be met by a new commitment, by all parties to the conflict, to protect civilians from harm,” said the director of the UN human rights unit in Afghanistan, Danielle Bell.